Reading Boosts Brain Size and Mental Well-being in Adolescents: Study

During childhood and adolescence, our brains undergo great changes that shape our cognitive abilities and overall brain health. One key aspect of this development is the formation of neural connections, which serve as the building blocks for information processing and communication within the brain. One of the most fun and accessible experiences for children and adolescents to shape their developing brains is reading. But how does it work? A recent study published in Psychological Medicine revealed that researchers from the UK and China discovered a correlation between reading and improved brain structure

During this critical development period, the brain is open to experiences and stimuli from the surrounding environment. The neural connections get stronger and more complex the more diverse and enriching these experiences are.

Why This Study?

It is common knowledge that reading is good for vocabulary and imagination. But, it is still unclear whether encouraging kids to read from a young age will have any effect on their brain development, cognition, or mental health in the future.

A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Warwick in the UK, along with Fudan University in China, conducted a study using data from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) cohort in the United States. The ABCD cohort comprised over 10,000 young adolescents who participated in the research.

The study indicated that dedicating approximately 12 hours per week to reading was found to be the optimal amount associated with these positive effects. These findings shed light on the potential reasons behind the observed improvements in brain structure. But how did they do it?

Let’s Understand The Process!

The research team thoroughly examined a variety of data sources, including clinical interviews, cognitive tests, assessments of mental health and behaviour, and brain scans. They specifically compared two groups of young people: those who began reading for pleasure at a young age (between two and nine years old) and those who either started reading later or did not read at all. 

To ensure the accuracy of the findings, the analyses took into account several crucial factors. This includes socio-economic status, thus controlling for their potential influence on the results.

What Did They Exactly Find?

The study revealed several significant benefits associated with early engagement in reading for pleasure:

  • Enhanced Cognitive Performance: Young individuals who started reading for pleasure at an early age exhibited improved abilities in many areas. Such as verbal learning, memory, speech development, and academic achievement at school, as measured by cognitive tests.
  • Improved Mental Well-being: Clinical scores and reports from parents and teachers indicated reduced signs of stress and depression. Additionally, these children displayed improved attention spans and fewer behavioural issues, including aggression and rule-breaking.
  • Reduced Screen Time: Early readers tended to spend less time engaged in screen-based activities, such as watching television or using smartphones and tablets. 
  • Longer Sleep Duration: They also tended to have longer sleep durations. This finding suggests a positive correlation between early reading habits and healthier sleep patterns.

Apart from this, they also displayed moderately larger total brain areas and volumes. So clearly, reading is linked to cognitive growth and has so many other benefits! This means that for maximum reading superpowers, young kids should aim for about 12 hours of reading fun each week. Surprisingly, going beyond this number didn’t seem to bring any extra benefits. 

Exit mobile version